Mayor Andy Letham says the local economic recovery task force has pinpointed better broadband as the key need in the city.
The task force, created by council at their May meeting and now boasting such local business luminaries as Bjorn Alfredsson, formerly of Holsag Furniture, Jill Quast of Happy Days Houseboats and Mark Wilson from Mark Wilson Contracting, focused on broadband being a key to economic recovery for all of eastern Ontario.
Letham says the pandemic “has exposed the weakness of local broadband.”
“The needs have been increasing 50 per cent per year for the last 10 years, and 200 per cent since the beginning of the pandemic.”
The task force will be part of a larger group that plans to recommend to the provincial and federal governments an ambitious broadband plan. The plan being considered would provide virtually every resident in eastern Ontario with fibre optic service at the cost of $1.5 billion to construct.
The Eastern Ontario Regional Network will likely spearhead the proposal as it moves on to the higher levels of government, and Letham said EORN is in the “best position to do this development.”
The task force also focused on a handful of other recommendations so Kawartha Lakes can recover from the economic battering the pandemic has inflicted.
The group is supportive of the province’s current plan to allow for regional re-openings. Letham is hopeful that Kawartha Lakes will be considered early in the process.
The group plans to start crafting a message that will be used in a media campaign to encourage people to visit Kawartha Lakes. The group is also grappling with a shop local campaign with a basic message to choose local businesses over Amazon.
Letham said the city is hoping to receive approval from council at the June 23 meeting to waive all licenses and inspection fees for outdoor drinking areas. The city is planning to allow businesses to have larger outdoor patios this year as a way to increase capacity and revenue in their establishments.
The mayor said that both the Olympia and Coach and Horses located in Lindsay have spoken to him about what can be done to facilitate larger patios for more personal spacing.
Letham shared the disturbing caveat that with the province not currently issuing liquor licenses to outdoor patios because of the pandemic, a four to six week wait could occur for businesses hoping to secure a provincial license. Letham said by that time the summer might be more than half over, and the impacts on those hospitality businesses could be “devastating.”
MPP Laurie Scott is involved in this issue and the task force is hoping for a helpful response from the provincial licensing authority on patio liquor licenses.